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Martin Luther King and the Philosophy of Nonviolence

Grade Level Grades 9-12
Resource Type Activity
Standards Alignment
Common Core State Standards, State-specific
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Martin Luther King, Jr. is remembered for his achievements in civil rights and for the methods he used to get there — namely, nonviolence. More than just a catchphrase, more than just the “absence of violence,” and more than just a tactic, nonviolence was a philosophy that King honed over the course of his adult life. It has had a profound, lasting influence on social justice movements at home and abroad.

In this lesson activity, students read background article on Dr. King's philosophy and rationale, as well as pivotal examples of the philosophy in action in Birmingham, Selma, Memphis, and Chicago. Then students role-play a group of civil rights protesters planning an action in a Southern town in 1962 calling for desegregation of a local lunch counter, deciding the best methods of nonviolent protest and their reasons for their choices.

Standards

Analyze the passage and effects of civil rights and voting rights legislation (e.g., 1964 Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act of 1965) and the Twenty-Fourth Amendment, with an emphasis on equality of access to education and to the political process.
Discuss the diffusion of the civil rights movement of African Americans from the churches of the rural South and the urban North, including the resistance to racial desegregation in Little Rock and Birmingham, and how the advances influenced the agendas, strategies, and effectiveness of the quests of American Indians, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans for civil rights and equal opportunities.
Examine the roles of civil rights advocates (e.g., A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X, Thurgood Marshall, James Farmer, Rosa Parks), including the significance of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and "I Have a Dream" speech.
Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for reflection and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
Introduce a topic and organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.
Students will examine the role and impact of individuals such as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Malcolm X on the movement and their perspectives on change.
identify the roles of significant leaders who supported various rights movements, including Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks, Hector P. Garcia, and Betty Friedan;
compare and contrast the approach taken by some civil rights groups such as the Black Panthers with the nonviolent approach of Martin Luther King Jr.;
Describe the purpose of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s presence in Memphis, the circumstances leading to his assassination, and the significance of the placement of the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

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